In a significant move to add to its already successful athletic program, Dickinson State University (DSU) announced the addition of women’s wrestling as an intercollegiate sport in the fall of 2022. This decision aligns with the rapidly growing popularity of women’s wrestling across the United States.

Growth in Women’s Wrestling

According to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS), the number of high school girls competing in wrestling has quintupled since 2013, nearly doubling from 2022 to 2023, the most recent year for which data is available. The inclusion of women’s wrestling in the 2004 Athens Summer Olympic Games is considered the catalyst for the sport’s unprecedented growth. Historically, female wrestlers had no choice but to compete against males. Today, girls’ wrestling is the fastest-growing high school sport in the country. North Dakota held its first state-sanctioned girls’ wrestling championships in the 2020-2021 school year, marking a milestone in the sport's development in the state.

DSU Wrestling Camp

Dickinson State University held its first boys’ and girls’ camps from June 24-27. The camps included a two-day camp for K-6th graders, attended by approximately 40 kids, and a four-day camp for 6-12th graders, which drew nearly 30 participants. Nearly half of the young athletes were girls, reflecting the sport's growing appeal.

Leadership and Coaching

Leading the camp was DSU's head women’s coach, Tyson Springer, a 2009 alumnus. Springer, a three-time All-American, two-time national finalist, and National Champion during his wrestling days at DSU, looks forward to the 2024-2025 season with anticipation. In the program's inaugural season (2023-2024), the Blue Hawks posted a 5-1 dual record and produced a national qualifier. The team's growth has been so rapid that Springer had to request additional lockers, as the initial 40 proved insufficient for his incoming 44-strong squad. Springer envisions further expansion, including a team camp and a camp exclusively for girls. Given the sport's explosive growth and the success of both DSU and Dickinson High School teams, these goals seem well within reach.

Additional Elite Coaches

The DSU wrestling camp featured guest clinician Jared Franek, a four-time North Dakota High School State Champion from West Fargo, two-time All-American, and last year's top-ranked wrestler in the nation before a late-season injury. Coach Jerry Stravia helped with the camp as well. Stravia, who grew up near the Olympic and Paralympic Training Center in Colorado Springs and was a three-time Colorado State Champion in freestyle wrestling, leads the Dickinson High School girls’ wrestling program. Despite a winless debut season in 2022-2023, the team rebounded impressively in 2023-2024, achieving a 12-4 dual record, securing fifth place in the state, and producing ten state qualifiers and four state placers. Stravia predicts an even more successful season ahead.

Stravia, also a Team North Dakota girls’ coach, emphasizes the broader lessons wrestling offers, such as discipline, goal setting, and resilience. He asserts, “Wrestling is the greatest tool I know to build good human beings. It teaches young athletes how to win, how to lose, and how to work hard.”

Jenna Gerhardt, a DSU fall 2024 transfer and vocal advocate for girls’ sports, contributed to the camp. Gerhardt, who has been pivotal in advancing girls’ wrestling in North Dakota and serves as a referee at national duals, is poised to make a significant impact on the 2024-2025 Blue Hawk women’s wrestling team.

Importance of Summer Camps

DSU's wrestling camps extend far beyond teaching technique; they focus on developing life skills such as confidence, teamwork, mental and physical resilience, goal setting, overcoming adversity, and nutrition. Summer camps are critical to a program’s development, according to Stravia, who noted, "Summer wrestling makes winter champions."

Eight-year-old Gracie Stravia, whose older sister Regan went undefeated as an All-American for Team North Dakota, shared her camp experience, saying, “I learned the cradle and the front head, go behind. Camp was great. We played games and learned important skills.”

The Future of Girls’ and Women’s Wrestling

Wrestlers, both male and female, draw inspiration from Dan Gable, a member of the 1972 USA Olympic Wrestling Team and legendary Iowa Hawkeye Wrestling Coach, who famously said, "Once you've wrestled, everything else in life is easier." Gable’s sentiment resonates deeply with Dickinson Junior High, Dickinson High School, and DSU’s nascent women’s wrestling programs as athletes, coaches, and fans look to the future with optimism and the attitude of champions.

For more information on DSU wrestling and future camps, please visit